Pentatonic or 3 note per string major

RTR

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Of the two scales mentioned, which do you think is the better/best to learn first?
For the life of me I can't seem to make myself sit down and learn and practice scales. This year that changes! Eventually I will learn both as well as others. I play classic rock, 90's rock/alt, country and blues if that makes a difference.
My goal is to be able to solo but I really want to be a solid rhythm player first. I know the basic major pentatonic scale with the "BB King" box as an extension but I really just make noise with it. I'm also learning the notes on the fretboard using the flash card method that Jens posted a while back.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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25,206
3 note per string is a type of fingering as opposed to 'pentatonic' which is a catagory of scale.
The people that I know that can really solo just copied recordings, without exception.
Scales are great for warming-up. For some types of music like classical, jazz, and certain rock sub-genres you need to be rock solid with them.
 

RTR

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3,513
I was under the impression that the 3 note per string was a major scale pattern. Does it cover both or is it its own thing?

I understand that being good at soloing will come from learning solos and reusing licks and connecting them. I feel that without knowing those scale patterns and what's in them it will take much longer to learn. I like knowing the context or "why" to what I'm doing. May not be a good way to approach this but that's why I'm asking.

Thanks for your input.
 

JonnyQ

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2,029
I like knowing the context or "why" to what I'm doing.

Knowledge will empower you here. Firstly, you may want to have a truly robust understanding of what a scale (major, minor pentatonic, whole tone, etc.) is, regardless of instrument, then apply it to the guitar, your specific instrument of choice. And, as you stated, learning every note on the guitar neck will helpreveal all.

For example, start with the C major scale.

There are only 7 notes in the scale:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B

Find all instances of those notes on your guitar. Find every C. Find every D. Etc..

The finger patterns will reveal themselves. You will see you can place these notes in all sorts of ways. For example, you can start with

C on the 8th fret of your Low E string. D is the 10th fret. E the 12th fret...

8--10--12

Then go to find F on the 8th fret of your A string... G is the 10th fret. A is the 2th

8--10--12

Then you can find B on the 9h fret of your D string

------
------
------
----9--
----8--10--12
----8--10--12

That's the basis of one of the 3 note per string patterns of the C major scale.

In short, know the notes of a scale. Find them on your guitar. :)
 

daacrusher2001

Silver Supporting Member
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7,017
FWIW - I spent a lot of time learning the pentatonic patterns and building licks from those scales. I could use them to play things that "fit", and actually sounded good, when jamming and even gigging. They were helpful in learning the fretboard and getting familiar with certain sounds and intervals you hear all the time.

(btw, memorizing the fretboard is not something I could do - I need a reference of some kind or it doesn't stick with me - the pentatonics gave me reference points and helped me navigate. Tomo's triad exercises were the next thing that helped me - I highly recommend it if you haven't tried it)

I didn't spend much time with the major scale, for years - now...I'm spending way more time with the major scale and integrating it into my soloing. And, really, I'm working with both major and minor scales a lot, and exploring modes.

After all of this noodling around with the scales and patterns, ya know what helped my soloing the most - I started studying some of the solos that I thought sounded really good, and started connecting the dots with following chord changes and using chord tones. People talk about it all the time as if it's something you should just do, but it's not that easy to be good at.

By doing this, I learned the fretboard better, learned the scales better, and I sound better. Just grab a few of your favorite solos and look carefully at how they are constructed against the underlying chords.

Some ideas:

Check out Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell In Love" - not overly complex, but very nicely outlines the chords.
Allman Brothers "Stormy Monday" and "Whipping Post" - you could spend a year with these and still discover things.
Eagles - pretty much anything - "Take It Easy" is a good one - really nice and not too difficult
Pink Floyd - I learned the "Time" solo - a great challenge

This helped me way more than just learning scales and patterns.
 

Semitone

Member
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899
Here is my two cents. (I'm sure there a number of people will pop up to disagree.)

I would learn the pentatonic first. I wouldn't focus on one position or "pattern"but learn the scale up and down the neck. I wouldn't think of it as the "major" or "minor" pent/fingerings but more as intervals. i.e. 1, b3,4,5,b7 or 1,2,3,5,6. depending on whether you are thinking in terms of minor or major tonality.

I think the pentatonic gets you on the road to improvising, is manageable with the five notes, gets you to see the fretboard as a whole rather than positions/chunks. Personally, I think it just sounds good and has great versatility. If you think of it as intervals you can "fill in" other notes as necessary in the future but still have the safety if the pentatonic to fall back on.

Why you say you "just make noise" is a bit surprising to me. Maybe you should get a looper( if you don't have one already), play over some progressions with it and focus on hitting chord tones ( via the pentatonic) when soloing. One mans noise is another man's music.

There are a lot of ways to get from A to B with the guitar. This is my personal suggestion, YMMV.
 
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guitarjazz

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25,206
I was under the impression that the 3 note per string was a major scale pattern. Does it cover both or is it its own thing?
3 notes per string is one 'strategy' for moving around the fingerboard...that's all. You could have a number of other limitations...2 notes per string, 1 note per string, playing the scale with one finger, and so forth. These could be applied to any scale, arpeggio, or perhaps other structures. There are musical reasons, stylist and phrasing choices, that affect how you might use these strategies.
 

guitarjazz

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25,206
I like knowing the context or "why" to what I'm doing.
Nothing wrong with knowing how to maneuver around your instrument. For most of us this a lifetime's worth of work. That being said, the 'context' is 99.9% in the music that inspires the soloing. With the exception of classical music (and that's not even completely true) the soloing you probably want to learn is 'folk' music that gets passed down by listening and copying....blues, rock, jazz, country.
It's real easy to pick out the guys that learned a scale and think they have the keys to soloing, versus those that have listened and absorbed (and added their own thing).
 

RTR

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3,513
I'd learn the major scale on one string to start.

How about the C major scale on one string?
I can do these. I know major and minor scale construction but not on the fly. Learning the notes should help with this.

3 notes per string is one 'strategy' for moving around the fingerboard...that's all. You could have a number of other limitations...2 notes per string, 1 note per string, playing the scale with one finger, and so forth. These could be applied to any scale, arpeggio, or perhaps other structures. There are musical reasons, stylist and phrasing choices, that affect how you might use these strategies.
I get what you are saying, well kind of :D. The context I read it in was as the major scale. An example was given in C, much like @JonnyQ posted above.
 

RTR

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3,513
Why you say you "just make noise" is a bit surprising to me. Maybe you should get a looper( if you don't have one already), play over some progressions with it and focus on hitting chord tones ( via the pentatonic) when soloing. One mans noise is another man's music.
When I said that I mean that everything sounds simplistic and redundant. I tend to do the same things in the one pentatonic pattern I know. My own worst critic at the moment.
 

stevel

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15,782
1. Don't learn scales. Learn music.

2. Pentatonic Major should be understood as a *sub-set* of Major. Whether an additive or subtractive approach should be taken may be arguable. I'd prefer people learn Major, then they automatically now Pentatonic. But since Pentatonic plays such a huge role in guitar playing, one could argue that learning it first would be more practical for a guitarist (as opposed to a musician). Many people can play much music without ever learning anything beyond the Pentatonic Scales (Major and Minor as we know them).

3. Don't learn scales. Learn music.
 

RTR

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3,513
@stevel I appreciate your input (everyone else in this thread too) and I read a good bit of what you post and know you have more knowledge of music than most, certainly more than I ever will. But....your post is a bit contradictory. First and last point are to learn music and not scales. The second is what scale you would prefer someone to learn first. LOL.
A little context. I'm 47 and have no desire to be the next best thing in the music industry. I want to be able to play the music I listen to and improvise when that is what is needed. I'm learning theory slowly...started learning it because I wanted to know how a chord was constructed and why. It's always been my understanding that scales were fundamentals that every guitarist should know. Is that wrong? Seriously asking.
When you say learn music, do you mean theory or songs start to finish?

Sorry for the rambling and all the questions but I decided this is the year I make something happen instead of just doing my familiar acoustic solo/duo thing. Tired of being the singing chord guy.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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25,206
@stevel I appreciate your input (everyone else in this thread too) and I read a good bit of what you post and know you have more knowledge of music than most, certainly more than I ever will. But....your post is a bit contradictory. First and last point are to learn music and not scales. The second is what scale you would prefer someone to learn first. LOL.
A little context. I'm 47 and have no desire to be the next best thing in the music industry. I want to be able to play the music I listen to and improvise when that is what is needed. I'm learning theory slowly...started learning it because I wanted to know how a chord was constructed and why. It's always been my understanding that scales were fundamentals that every guitarist should know. Is that wrong? Seriously asking.
When you say learn music, do you mean theory or songs start to finish?

Sorry for the rambling and all the questions but I decided this is the year I make something happen instead of just doing my familiar acoustic solo/duo thing. Tired of being the singing chord guy.
If you'd learned about five of these tunes you'd learn scales and music (plus they are fun to play).


I appreciate your desire to learn theory. Do you have access to a keyboard? You don't have to learn to play like Keith Emerson or anything but a keyboard is the best layout for learning theory.
 

Semitone

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Messages
899
When I said that I mean that everything sounds simplistic and redundant. I tend to do the same things in the one pentatonic pattern I know. My own worst critic at the moment.

If your understanding/facility of the pentatonic scale is limited to the standard fingering pattern of something like the 5th position A-, then it is easy to get stuck in a bit of a rut and not think outside the box ( pun intended). That's why I think it important to see the scale tones up and down the neck and see things vertically , as well as, horizontally. It gives you more basic material to work with when improvising.

And, of course, as others have said, it helps to copy/listen to a variety of styles. For example you can use the pentatonic framework to emulate Page, Gilmore or Hendrix ( and a zillion others) and you'll see that they all sound very different but still very focused on pentatonics ( or thereabouts) for a good deal of solo work. I really do believe there is a lot to explore within a pentatonic framework and some judicious venturing outside the scale.

I also agree with the "don't learn scales, learn music" sentiment but I think the scales can help you understand and map the fingerboard in your mind and ears. Hopefully, the scales free you up and not box you in.
 
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Guitardave

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Of the two scales mentioned, which do you think is the better/best to learn first?
For the life of me I can't seem to make myself sit down and learn and practice scales. This year that changes! Eventually I will learn both as well as others. I play classic rock, 90's rock/alt, country and blues if that makes a difference.
My goal is to be able to solo but I really want to be a solid rhythm player first. I know the basic major pentatonic scale with the "BB King" box as an extension but I really just make noise with it. I'm also learning the notes on the fretboard using the flash card method that Jens posted a while back.

Don't think of them as separate scales. Learn major and major pentatonic at the same time. Ignore three note per string stuff till you really know the how the scale lines up to the chord. Play a G major bar chord, then play the G major and G major pentatonic scale in that same position. Do the same thing with a G chord in another position. Now do that with an Am chord (it's only a G major scale starting from the A note!). Learn basic major scale and chord theory - you already know a lot of it internally from playing songs. Get a looper so you can hear what the scale notes sound like over the chords. Playing scale positions is only for muscle memory - the brain and ear are far more important! Hope that helps...
 
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Jon

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I would draw up a fretboard diagram with the minor pentatonic marked up across the whole neck - but then just steal as many licks off records as you can from blues players (note - this takes years and years of listening and hard work - this is where you get good) - fit them into your diagram as a point of reference and try to play them in loads of different places on the neck.

The key here is just learning licks - it's like learning to speak as a child - you don't start with the rules of grammar or learning all the words in the dictionary - you start by building a vocabulary of phrases, based on copying what you hear others doing. So in the same way, just because you know a scale pattern all across the neck in every position, it doesn't follow that you can automatically make satisfying music with it. The end aim is to have a massive vocabulary of licks to call on which are so familiar to you that you can combine the pitches and rhythms in different ways to create something that is your own. Even the best improvisers say that although they strive for something new, on the average gig most of their solos are built from familiar things that they regularly play - if you think about it, this is why we often like to listen to certain players - e.g. BB King didn't use a massive musical vocabulary when he played solos, but what he did use was recognisably him. I've heard John Coltrane play similar licks with a very certain structure on a number of recordings - it's what constitutes your 'voice' on the instrument.

I'm not saying don't learn theory, or look at different scales etc - but this should start to come naturally as a way of explaining the things that you currently do e.g. if you've learnt loads of BB King licks and solos, the major pentatonic and the mixolydian mode will start to sound familiar and become something that dovetails with your existing knowledge - theory and technical skill should always be leapfrogging with actual music, so you learn some licks, then you start to understand the theory behind those, and practice techniques to enable you play them slightly differently, then you learn some more licks and so on.

Don't spend too much time looking for shortcuts - every video, book, online course etc may yield one or two things which you end up incorporating into your own playing but no one resource is going to make you a great player - looking for a 'method' or a course which will somehow transform your playing is a very superficial approach, which avoids you taking full responsibility for your own learning. Look at how 'the greats' did it - read interviews with them about how they learnt and spend plenty of time thinking deeply about what your goals really are, and how you might achieve them - a good teacher (note the word 'teacher' rather than player - not all great players can teach well) can help you structure your learning, but in the end, the hard work has to come from you every single day.

Identify what you really want to be able to do musically - don't do something because you think that's what 'good' players do - identify what you really love about music and guitar and hey presto..your roadmap should start to identify itself.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
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25,206
I would draw up a fretboard diagram with the minor pentatonic marked up across the whole neck - but then just steal as many licks off records as you can from blues players (note - this takes years and years of listening and hard work - this is where you get good) - fit them into your diagram as a point of reference and try to play them in loads of different places on the neck.

The key here is just learning licks - it's like learning to speak as a child - you don't start with the rules of grammar or learning all the words in the dictionary - you start by building a vocabulary of phrases, based on copying what you hear others doing. So in the same way, just because you know a scale pattern all across the neck in every position, it doesn't follow that you can automatically make satisfying music with it. The end aim is to have a massive vocabulary of licks to call on which are so familiar to you that you can combine the pitches and rhythms in different ways to create something that is your own. Even the best improvisers say that although they strive for something new, on the average gig most of their solos are built from familiar things that they regularly play - if you think about it, this is why we often like to listen to certain players - e.g. BB King didn't use a massive musical vocabulary when he played solos, but what he did use was recognisably him. I've heard John Coltrane play similar licks with a very certain structure on a number of recordings - it's what constitutes your 'voice' on the instrument.

I'm not saying don't learn theory, or look at different scales etc - but this should start to come naturally as a way of explaining the things that you currently do e.g. if you've learnt loads of BB King licks and solos, the major pentatonic and the mixolydian mode will start to sound familiar and become something that dovetails with your existing knowledge - theory and technical skill should always be leapfrogging with actual music, so you learn some licks, then you start to understand the theory behind those, and practice techniques to enable you play them slightly differently, then you learn some more licks and so on.

Don't spend too much time looking for shortcuts - every video, book, online course etc may yield one or two things which you end up incorporating into your own playing but no one resource is going to make you a great player - looking for a 'method' or a course which will somehow transform your playing is a very superficial approach, which avoids you taking full responsibility for your own learning. Look at how 'the greats' did it - read interviews with them about how they learnt and spend plenty of time thinking deeply about what your goals really are, and how you might achieve them - a good teacher (note the word 'teacher' rather than player - not all great players can teach well) can help you structure your learning, but in the end, the hard work has to come from you every single day.

Identify what you really want to be able to do musically - don't do something because you think that's what 'good' players do - identify what you really love about music and guitar and hey presto..your roadmap should start to identify itself.
Testify.
 

RTR

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3,513
Thanks for the responses everyone. Just to clarify a bit, I'm not looking for a shortcut as I've already been down that road and know where it leads, nowhere.
After reading and digesting the replies, I have a better idea of what I need to do. I need the muscle memory of scales to be fluid in movement and to help me reference where I'm at on the fretboard. I do learn licks and have attempted to learn a couple of solos but it always bugged me to not know "what" I was playing, i.e., is this Major or Minor or how do I do this in another key. Things like this have made me learn some theory but I still have a long way to go with that.
Thanks everyone!
 




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